Accused Chicago drug honcho: 'Wouldn't testify against El Chapo'

Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, head of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel was captured overnight Friday at a hotel in Mazatlan, Mexico.
March 7, 2014 4:38:21 PM PST
In the shadowy, cut-throat world of Mexican drug cartels, the reputed Chicago operations commander for Mexico's superpower Sinaloa drug cartel will not testify against his boss, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. That is the message that an attorney for accused El Chapo lieutenant Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez wants delivered loud and clear.

Vazquez-Hernandez intends to plead guilty next week, but on Thursday his attorney Paul Brayman insisted that is where the arrangement will end. Brayman told the I-Team that there will be no plea deal with the government nor will Hernandez testify against his ruthless ex-boss.

Chapo Guzman, Vasquez-Hernandez and nine other people were accused in 2009 of operating a billion-dollar, transnational, illicit drug business with Chicago as its main American distribution hub. Vasquez-Hernandez, 58, also known as "Alfredo Compadre," was accused by federal prosecutors of acting as a logistics supervisor. They say he routed multi-ton quantities of cocaine from Central and South American to Mexico and into the U.S. for Guzman's vast operation. He also allegedly return shipped massive amounts of cash profits back to Guzman who became the world's richest drug dealer, according to federal authorities.

At a status hearing on Wednesday, attorney Brayman told U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo that Vasquez-Hernandez will plead guilty next week to one count of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute greater than five kilograms. According to Mr. Brayman, additional charges would be dropped but he firmly says there is no plea bargain deal with prosecutors that would require his client to testify nor any agreement on a recommended prison sentence.

El Chapo, who escaped the last time he was in custody, is being held in Mexico under incredibly tight security. Although U.S. Justice Dept. officials have said they intend to make an extradition request, Mexican officials have given no signal that they would be willing to allow such a big fish off the hook. That makes an El Chapo Guzman trial in Chicago-or anywhere else in the U.S.-unlikely but not impossible.

While in jail, the strongman of the Sinaloa cartel still rules over a potent operation-and is considered a threat to wayward co-workers, expansion-minded competitors and all of their family members. Violence is the language of the cartel world. With that in mind, on Thursday lawyer Brayman told the I-Team that any suggestions Mr. Vasquez-Hernandez would testify against El Chapo were incorrect and not true. Brayman said the blind guilty plea that will be entered by his client is nothing more than that.

Another co-defendant, Tomas Arevalo-Renteria, is also said to be in discussions with federal prosecutors about a plea arrangement before trial. The indictment that charges that Arevalo-Renteria, Vasquez-Hernandez and other defendants worked for El Chapo Guzman to import and distribute cocaine and heroin. Federal investigators say the cartel used planes, trains, automobile, boats, submarines and cars to move drugs. They say the products were street drugs but the business was making money, and the means to accomplish that frequently included violence.


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